Young people notice. And as they grow, they internalize. But they also reflect and speak out. Lily Myers raises her voice through poetry.
The Wesleyan University student was awarded Best Love Poem last April at the College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational (CUPSI) for her spoken word piece, “Shrinking Women.” It’s an on-point expression of the anxieties and pressures women and girls face regarding their self-image and how it’s different from what many (but certainly not all) men and boys experience.
This includes body image, confidence, and that awful, awful thing called self-silencing. I don’t know how many times I’ve tried to have that frustrating conversation—with male peers, adults, and even my brothers—about why a woman’s experience with self-image is often different from a man’s, but I haven’t known quite how to say it, so I get upset or I give up. Myers gets it right explaining to her own brother:
You have been taught to grow out I have been taught to grow in you learned from our father how to emit, how to produce, to roll each thought off your tongue with confidence, you used to lose your voice every other week from shouting so much I learned to absorb I took lessons from our mother in creating space around myself
These are concepts with which men and women are socialized—the phenomenon of “shrinking” is not in our blood as women, but it’s in our society.